A few weeks ago during one of our Bloom Club classes, we discussed sobriety as a lifestyle. For me, I believe this component is essential for successful sobriety. Sobriety isn’t something you can take on and off like a jacket. It’s not something you can keep hidden away as a secret that you only take out in church basements to discuss amongst like-minded people. It must be something that you believe in with your whole heart. It must be something that you’re proud of and that you put first. Otherwise it won’t work. Or it might work, but you may eventually feel like you are leading a double life, that sobriety is a chore, or something to be ashamed of.
One thing I’ve come to understand in sobriety is that there will be times when you’re the only sober one. That’s just how our world is. Unless you build yourself a sobriety bubble and only hang out with friends from AA and everyone you know is in recovery and you work somewhere with people who are in recovery, you’ll come across a time when you’ll be the only sober person. It might be at work, it might be a party, it might be at a nightclub, a wedding, or at your gym. Even though there are more and more people in recovery and sobriety is slowly becoming cool, it is still considered the norm to be a drinker.
In my early sobriety, I felt very alone. I was the only sober person I knew. I knew a few parents and acquaintances of other people who were sober, but I didn’t have any good, real friends or people who I could confide in and talk to that were sober. I certainly didn’t have sober friends who would go out to nightclubs with me, and also be sober. For the first year of my sobriety living in Cancun made me feel like an alien. I was always the only sober person anywhere. I experienced a lot of those feelings people fear before getting sober. I felt left out, I had FOMO (fear of missing out), I felt boring, different, other, and less than. I felt like a weirdo.
When we moved to Florida I found other sober people in the rooms of AA and it was a relief. But as I described in previous posts, I still felt the dynamic of living two lives - my sober life in the rooms and my regular life outside in the normal world.
This weekend I went to a Halloween party with my CrossFit friends and I was the only sober person in attendance. There were a few people there who were going easy on the drinks because they were designated drivers, but no one in recovery like me, was there. I didn’t know everyone there and not everyone knew me. There were a few people who offered me drinks and others who thought I was drinking. I don’t mind explaining myself when I am asked, or if someone points to the NA beer in my hand thinking it’s the real thing. But I also no longer feel the need to have to shout from the rooftops that I am sober. It doesn’t bother me anymore what people think about my sobriety. I used to feel like I had something to prove. I felt like I couldn’t be seen at parties, or have photos of me dancing at a drinking event, or be seen in any way “promoting” what could be perceived as a drinking lifestyle.
At my 4th year in sobriety, I’ve learned to throw caution and public opinion to the wind a bit. I am still extremely vocal about the chronic issues in our society concerning drinking and drinking culture, but I am hyper-aware that we still live in a drinking society. We as sober people must accept that and be comfortable in our own skin despite it. I am the sober person at the party, and on the majority of occasions in my own life, I’m the only sober person. But will I be skipping parties where alcohol is present? Will I isolate myself from the drinking society which I was born into? Will I live in a fantasyland where drugs and alcohol don’t exist? No, I can’t because that is not real life.
So, what can I do? I can exist. I can use my tools and my intuition. I can establish boundaries and I can go out there and live my life as the sober person at the party. Sure, I choose my parties carefully these days. I don’t go out every night creating my own parties and looking for a constant distraction in the form of socialization and drinking like I used to. I dance and laugh and joke and observe and talk and make friends. I’m doing it all sober.
Sobriety is the thing that I hold nearest and dearest to me. It is now a part of my make-up. It has changed my life. It has given me a life.
A lot of people will never understand. I have been asked these questions so many times. How do you do it? How do you go to the party and not drink? How are you having fun right now? But you look like you’re drinking!
Today I don't feel so alone. I don’t need everyone to understand, but I am willing to answer questions and talk to anyone about how I do what I do. I am a living example of the sober life. I can tell you from experience - you can still have fun sober. You can go to the party sober. You can dance all night sober. You can even stay awake until 4am (if that’s your thing!) sober. I’m so tired of all these rules and regulations about being sober. Sobriety isn’t about proving yourself to others. It’s about healing, it’s about learning to love yourself and living free from the shackles of your former life.
Being the only sober person at the party might be uncomfortable at first, but I challenge you to embrace it, to love it, and to revel in it. Being proud of being sober is being proud of who you are.
Because this is who we are and there is no better life than this one. You might be the only sober person at the party, but you are not alone. You are special. You are different. You changed your life.
Of course, I'm partying sober because I am not wasting one more minute of my precious life living in a sobriety box created by someone else.